Woman gets prison time for receiving stolen property from Fontana business

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Katherine Krueger
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ELKHORN--The defendant expressed regret for “not taking the warning signs,” but that was not close enough to an apology for a Walworth County judge Tuesday.

Judge David Reddy said Joanne Anderson's “brazen efforts” even in the face of the  warning signs prompted him to sentence her to three years in prison, followed by five years of extended supervision, for receiving stolen property in excess of $10,000. Reddy also ordered Anderson to pay $385,487.81 in restitution to the victim.

Anderson, 50, was convicted of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks written by her friend, Kari Sue Clark-Branton, of Delavan from Home Design Manufacturing, the Fontana business where Clark-Branton worked.

Home Design owner Fred Sjoberg urged the judge to sentence Anderson to prison, characterizing her as a “long-time criminal” he has been trying to put behind bars for five years.

“It's been a big, cancerous wound that keeps coming back,” he said.

Sustaining the business and his 10 full-time employees after Clark-Branton embezzled more than $800,000 proved to be a “stronger storm” even than weathering the recession, and Sjoberg said he had to invest most of his personal savings just to keep the company afloat.

Anderson received the forged checks between 2001 and 2008. She worked for the company in 1992 but left after making unauthorized charges on the company credit card, according to the criminal complaint. She also recommended that Clark-Branton be hired as her replacement.

Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo contended that the defendant was not truthful even after charges were filed and that she lied about ending her friendship with Clark-Branton when, in fact, the two continued to correspond in letters.

Even after five years of working with the case, Donohoo said, she could not definitively say which of the women was the ringleader.

Defense attorney Theodore Kmiec argued that because there was no evidence that Anderson and Clark-Branton planned a conspiracy, she should receive probation rather than prison. He painted Clark-Branton, who was also convicted, as the instigator,  calling her a “very able con man.” Clark-Branton was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison followed by 2 1/2 years of supervision for her role in the crimes.

The fact that Anderson sold her Exeland home and moved to Kentucky in April 2012 did not indicate she was trying to evade the court's jurisdiction, he said, but rather it was a move that allowed her to care for an elderly family member.

While living in Kentucky, Anderson was “breaking even” with her monthly expenses, Kmiec said, and not receiving stolen funds to support a lifestyle beyond her means.

Andersen briefly addressed the court, saying she felt “pretty distraught” about the damage she had done to the business.

Reddy also scheduled a status conference on an outstanding felony bail-jumping charge related to the case but canceled the trial previously scheduled for August.

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